Chinese Railway Workers
Building the Canadian Pacific Railway
Why Did They Came To British North America?
Canada needed a railway that would stretch from one side of the country to the other. Andrew Onderdonk, a New York engineer, was given the contract to build the portion of the railway from Port Moody to Eagle Pass, near Revelstoke, British Columbia. The land in this area was mountainous, making the work difficult and dangerous.
Journey to North America...
After the American construction companies realized how the Chinese workers are hard workers, so they decided to go to Kwangtung and employ more Chinese workers as they lower the prize of the steamer ticket.
Canadian Steel, Chinese Grit (Excerpt) - Chinese Labour in Constructing the Canadian Pacific Railway
The Journey of Death
Even Americans paid them unfairly and treated them really harsh, but compare with China at that moment, this might be the chance to let them have a better life, so more and more Chinese workers went on the ship across the ocean.
But the voyage was almost the same as journey of hell. The Chinese workers started the voyage from Kwangtung, they needed 75~100 days in order to arrive California. But the Americans didn't want to spend money on that, so they put as many people as possible, everyone only can get a foot(about 30.5 cm) long of space.
During this long journey, all the Chinese workers were all squeezed like canned sardines, not just be lack of air and sunlight, but also fresh water and food. A lot of people were suffocated to death, die of hunger, thirst and illness, they even suicided because they just can't take this anymore. According to the data of a research, there was 4 steamship carried 2523 Chinese workers, and 1620 of them died, the highest death rate is around 64%!
The Way They've Been Treated...
Between 1881 and 1884, as many as 17 000 Chinese men came to B.C. to work as labourers on the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Chinese workers worked for $1.00 a day, and from this $1.00 the workers had to still pay for their food and their camping and cooking gear. White workers did not have to pay for these things even though they were paid more money ($1.50-$2.50 per day).
The Chinese workers were given the most dangerous work to do. They cleared and graded the railway's roadbed. They blasted tunnels through the rock. There were accidents, fires and disasters. Landslides and dynamite blasts killed many. There was no proper medical care and many Chinese workers depended on herbal cures to help them.
Chinese railroad workers in Canada :1880-1885